Social norms in cross hairs with growing use of cyberspace

People urged to observe Friday as ‘National Day against Indecent Content on Social Media’

ISLAMABAD, Oct 22 (APP): Social media has become an undeniable force in today’s interconnected world, redefining the realm of communication altogether with millions shifting to this mode of sharing information.

But, this remarkable connectivity comes at a grave cost threatening the very essence of our social harmony eroding face-to-face interactions and further weakening personal relations.

Privacy breaches and online harassment are another dark side of cyberspace that becomes a major source of spreading disinformation, thus making it the most pressing issue for the whole world.

Users are growing on social media networking websites like X (previously called Twitter), Facebook, Messenger, WeChat, ShareChat, Instagram, Zone, Weibo, VK, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, LinkedIn, YouTube, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, TikTok, Microsoft Teams and many more with each passing day with these sites making access easy for millions across the world including Pakistan.

According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), YouTube tops the list of social media platforms having 71.7 million users followed by Facebook with 57.5 million users. Snack Video and Snapchat occupy third and fourth positions respectively with 20 million and 18.8 million users.

TikTok has 18.3 million users followed by Instagram with 15.6 million. In Pakistan, LinkedIn has 7.6 million subscribers with Bigo and Likee having 4.2 million users and X 3.4 million users.

As this phenomenon goes on, the PTA has also been striving to create an enabling environment for social media users in the country.

“PTA’s support and facilitation of social media in line with the government’s ‘Digital Pakistan’ vision had created an impact on improving meaningful connectivity and reducing usage gaps,” remarked PTA Director Public Relations Malahat Obaid.

“PTA has consistently been encouraging social media companies to register with the authority as per Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules, 2021,” she said.

She informed that the authority has consistently been utilizing print and electronic media and SMS services to educate people for productive, responsible, safe, and legitimate usage of social media platforms.

But, besides several positive aspects of social media use, research and studies have also highlighted its multiple negative impacts like cyberbullying, the spread of misinformation, addiction, the decline in face-to-face communication, self-esteem issues, social isolation, polarization, echo chambers, cyberstalking, and harassment.

Social media has affected almost all age groups of our society making them stick to their mobile phones contrary to our previous customs of socializing, getting together, chit-chatting, gossiping, sharing and supporting each other in daily life challenges and moving forward in flocks.

It has also badly affected physical excursions, exercises, healthy games, sleeping and awakening habits, and customizing with relatives and friends. Now even children prefer to spend more time on social media than to be with their parents.

Then there is immoral material and activities gradually trapping our innocent youth to immoral activities, keeping them away from family members and respected societal norms.

Although the PTA’s has claimed to launching web series like ‘Chai Chats’ to educate our 18-25 years old youth on social cohesion and responsible online behavior and is processing to block 1.1 million URLs including 187 mobile applications for unlawful content, yet it is facing an uphill task of devising a comprehensive strategy to save our youth from harmful impact of social media.

In many countries the association between social media platforms usage and family relationship is widely researched due to a growing concern that excessive use of social media had resulted in behavioral change of users towards their relatives.

The older generation is very much concerned about the fading away societal norms whose hallmark was strong relationships and societal bonds as the scenario was changing right in front of them with their offspring restricting to social media for hours, keeping away from respected relatives, studies and activities essential for their physical and mental health.

“Internet facility was meant to acquire knowledge, information and better communication. But, unfortunately some social media platforms are ruining masses nobility by uploading fake information and harmful content,” stated
Hammad Bhatti, an Information Technology (IT) expert.

“Some use it as ‘propaganda weapon’ polluting our young minds through rhetoric and targeted exploitation. Excessive and uncontrolled use of social media was also badly damaging our social fabric and moral values,” he said.

Many social media platforms are also used for maligning and defaming others by promoting false and malicious religious, ethical or political propaganda.

“Rival political parties and even the unfriendly countries use social media as a tool for poisoning minds of common people,” said Israr Tirmzi, another IT expert.

“Developing social media contacts by youth with opposite sex and falling in love that sometimes results in elopement or a runaway wedlock, often create problems for families,” he said. “Such relations do not last for long usually, and breakup results in acute depression, anxiety and sometimes suicide.”

Therefore unchecked use of social media is more challenging for parents than anyone else putting a heavy responsibility on their shoulders to keep vigil on their kids. Moreover, there is also dire need to publicize about bad impacts of excessive social media usage to save our youth and protect our valued social norms.


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